It was a moment of remembrance, pride and sorrow for the families of three camp counselors who died in a car accident a year ago and now will have a building dedicated in their memory.
Those relatives were among more than 150 people at the groundbreaking ceremony Wednesday for the Malone-Mulhall Recreation Center at Camp ANCHOR, a recreational summer camp in Lido Beach for the mentally and physically handicapped.
The $6-million facility honors the counselors from Floral Park who died in July 2010 -- Paige Malone, 19; her sister, Jamie Malone, 22; and Michael Mulhall, 22 -- after their car crashed into a tree off the Meadowbrook State Parkway in Roosevelt. The driver, Justine Mulhall, now 21, swerved to avoid a car she believed had gone into her lane, police say.
"It's amazing how they are honoring them," said Michael Mulhall's sister Grace, 18, who cried during the ceremony. "It was really hard walking around camp and not seeing them here, but the campers made me smile."
Several family and staff members and campers' parents in attendance wiped away tears and cheered during the ceremony.
"They will always be remembered," Camp ANCHOR director Joe Lentini said of the counselors. "I cannot think of three better angels to watch over us."
Justine and Grace Mulhall and Grace's twin sister, Carrie, still work as counselors at the camp.
"It is a place that has helped my family to heal," said their father, Neil Mulhall. "It is a story that needs to be told over and over again."
Paige Malone's boyfriend Joe Lynch, 21, organized a basketball game fundraiser in July that generated $50,000 for the Jamie and Paige Malone Foundation, and the Camp ANCHOR scholarship established in Michael Mulhall's name.
"It's definitely an emotional day, but this new building is well-deserved for these volunteers and campers," Lynch said.
The one-floor recreation center will have a stage, a gymnasium, two multipurpose rooms, computer rooms, a kitchen, an office, reception area, storage areas, a nurse's office equipped with a bath and shower, and men's and women's handicapped-accessible bathrooms and showers.
Campers' families raised more than $1.5 million and the Long Island Board of Realtors raised $5,000 to help buy kitchen appliances, computers and other supplies for the new building, which is being paid for by the town. Hempstead Supervisor Kate Murray was joined by other town officials at the ceremony.
Construction of the 15,000-square-foot building will start within the next two months and will last about a year, town officials said.
"We should have had the building a long time ago," Aziz said, "but we are very happy that the building will be dedicated to the three staff members who died."